Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Haydn - Piano Trio No. 45 In E-flat Major, Hob. XV:29

The two visits Joseph Haydn made to London in the late 18th century inspired him to compose works to be performed while he was there. Both trips were highly successful, and concerts were sold out for performances of his works. But Haydn was a composer in all genres, and not all of his music was written to be performed in public concert. The drawing rooms and parlors of the elite English served as locales for his chamber music as well.

Haydn met many musicians during his tours of London, with one of them being Therese Jansen Bartolozzi, a German pianist that had been a student of Muzio Clementi, a piano virtuoso, piano maker and music publisher that settled in England. Therese had moved to London with her family when she was still young.  Her and family attended some of the concerts given by Haydn during his first tour of London. Her reputation as a performer must have been formidable as she received dedications of compositions by Clementi, Dussek, and Haydn. 

Haydn dedicated three piano sonatas to her, and what is believed to be the last three piano trios Haydn composed. Piano trio No. 45  Hob. XV:29 is the last of the three and is in three movements:

I. Poco allegro -  The movements begins with an E-flat major chord and a theme taken up by the piano and violin. As is often the case with Haydn's piano trios, the cello usually doubles the bass line of the piano part. The piano of Haydn's day was not the concert grand audiences know of today. The tonal qualities were not as robust, but had plenty of character. Haydn composes the trio with a solid knowledge of what the piano of his day could accomplish as the piano writing keeps to separate lines instead of chordal passages. He blends the piano and strings into a pleasant and expressive whole. The movement has elements of sonata form and theme and variation. The short first section consists of a theme (the only real theme of the movement) that is dominated by a gentle dotted rhythm and is repeated. The next section develops the theme somewhat, is longer and is also repeated. The 3rd section is in E-flat minor, and shortly has the return of the original theme in E-flat major. This theme is elaborated upon in a fourth section that serves the purpose of a recapitulation. Haydn was 65 years old when he wrote this trio, and his creativity was still sharp as a coda brings an end to a expertly crafted movement.

II. Andantino ed innocentemente - As the tempo indication indicates, this music is of an innocent feeling, but that doesn't mean it's boring. It is written in B major, quite distant from the home key of E-flat major. Haydn was not only a master (and stretcher) of form, his harmonic structure can be unique as well. The movement doesn't last long, as Haydn shows his harmonic mastery again by modulation back to the home key as the final movement begins straight away.

III. Allemande - Presto assai -  Again, the tempo indication gives an advance of the nature of the music, for it is a German dance, a ländler. Haydn was fond of rapid finales, and this movement moves at a brisk pace. There are hints of the gypsy music he no doubt heard at Eszterháza, the estate in Hungary where he was employed by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy for many years. The movement ends in high spirits.  

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